When I was about to write this personal statement, I recalled a true story from my childhood. Just one month after I was born, a special friend of my parents’, who was very knowledgeable in astrology and physiognomy, visited my family. Watching me sleep like a log in a cradle, she let it slip that I would become a statesman or an ambassador rather than a technician or an engineer as my father had hoped.
I grew up and did not invested much hope in this prophesy because from primary school to high school I excelled in math, physics, chemistry and other natural science subjects. I was allergic to literature and foreign languages but I could spend a whole day long confined to my room looking for the solution to a math problem. In 1995, my excellence in math took me to the High School for Gifted Students in Mathematics and Informatics in Hanoi, which brings together math talents from every corner of the country. At that time I thought I would become a mathematician or an IT expert.
However, things have changed since my unintended talk with my friend’s uncle, Mr. A, the chief negotiator of Vietnam on …, in January 1998. His patriotism, his interesting stories about negotiations, his sense of humor, sophisticated manners and common courtesy awakened my desire to be someone like him. Especially, he opened my eyes to brand new images of the United States and other countries in the world, which I had quite often heard about but did not know well. That talk changed my life. I chose to follow my schooling at the Institute for International Relations (IIR) instead of the Hanoi University of Technology.
The change introduced a whole new experience, because my strength in math and other natural sciences could not easily be brought into play in a new realm of social sciences and foreign languages. However, despite many initial difficulties in learning English, I have found a different, no less interesting world than the realm of mathematics. In this new world problems, mainly related to behaviors of and relations among individuals, social groups and nation-states, appear with many parameters, both constant and variable, predictable as well as unpredictable, and cannot be solved with singular fixed solutions.
At the IIR, I had time and resources to satisfy my personal curiosity about the United States. I have read many books about the American history, culture and people and have had many opportunities to listen to and talk with various distinguished American professors and politicians. I have been most impressed with the first Ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson, Prof. Jack Snyder of Columbia University, Prof. Robert A. Scalapino of University California at Berkeley, and David Lampton of Johns Hopkins University. I soon came to realize that, throughout my undergraduate years, my personal curiosity had developed into a strong academic interest in American Studies. That is the reason why after graduation I happily accepted the offer to a voluntary post of research assistant at the Center for European and American Studies.
In November 2003, I participated in two tough nation-wide competitions with the Ministry of Trade (MOT) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) at the same time. The results from MOT were received first, so I started working for the European and American Department in January 2004. There, I was chosen to be an administrative assistant to Mr. A whom I met before. He did not remember me, a little boy six years ago, and now his colleague. However, at the end March 2004, I was informed that I successfully passed the entry exam to MOFA. I stood at the crossroad. Which way should I go?
I must say that working with Mr. A has been the most valuable experience that I have ever had. I learned much from him, not only from his expertise but also from his working enthusiasm and seriousness. MOT is a stimulating working environment with various opportunities for young specialists to follow. However, my specialty was not economics or trade policy. Finally, in the light of my academic interests, I decided to move to MOFA.
Now, as a researcher and a lecturer at the IIR (MOFA), the country’s leading think-tank in the field of external affairs at the service of Vietnamese leaders, I have set forth clear goals to achieve. My professional goal is to become an expert in and a professor of American studies. My ultimate career goal, as a diplomat, is to be an accredited Vietnamese ambassador abroad. To this end, my first step will be to study in the United States for two years in a relevant Master’s program to deepen my expertise and add to my practical experience.
I am aware that these goals are grand, but not unrealistic. A Master’s degree is extremely important for me now because it is a springboard for my career development. A long and bumpy road is waiting ahead before the goals are achieved. But once I made up my mind, I am determined to accomplish them no matter how hard it is. I strongly believe that I will overcome it by my brainpower, my will power and a bit of luck.
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